28
Dec 10

Qype: Sartori in London

LondonEating & DrinkingRestaurants

Sartori is a new Italian joint, opened October 2010, in the heart of the theatre district in London’s West End.

I love pizza.

By that, I mean I hate Pizza Sexpress, can’t stand Deep Bland Pizza, abhor Pizza Slut, can’t be arsed with Ask, and please don’t get me started on how Dodgy Domino’s has single-handedly bastardised the concept of pizza and turned it into the Divine Brown of the UK Pizza scene. (“You’re hungry, you say? And you have no soul? Here, use my Domino’s Calling Card! You can find them in most phone booths around town! It will feel great at the time and they will deliver straight to your door!”)

Truth is, Brits just don’t *get* pizza. The idea that there exists this unspoken hierarchy of quality that differentiates Ask from Pizza Express from Pizza Hut is absolutely bonkers. Fact is they are all lowest-common-denominator, hen-do-serving chain restaurants whose sole purpose is to shovel out food that is marginally above adequate according to the British palate (and we all know what that means), thus making the most profit possible.

It’s how Tesco and Starbucks operate, and the discerning foodie should shun them not because they are all corporate and evil like, but because they have forgotten what it means to do things that make you smile.

Sartori, this lovely cosy and sophisticated little restaurant in central London, is the perfect antidote to the picture I have painted above.

If I tell you that this restaurant transported their pizza oven piece-by-piece directly from Naples and reconstructed it in their basement (no expense spared: the whole thing cost a cool £18k), you might correctly assume that they also shipped-in chefs from Naples to operate the beast as well.

And if you know a thing or two about the average food ethic of a chef in Naples, and the commitment they have to the art of making pizza, you might start to understand that you are in for a rare treat.

Actually I first heard about this place when I was looking at reviews of my favourite new coffee house nearby, Notes Music and Coffee, who have probably the most expensive and sought-after espresso machine currently in the world. Sartori was noted in the same piece as having the Maserati of pizza ovens. I had to investigate. I had to see it for myself.

A quick look downstairs at this oven, and a chat with a waiter, confirms this is indeed the Maserati of pizza ovens. The waiter actually compared it to a Ferrari, but the point is that this restaurant is sufficiently geeky about the construction of a pizza to employ pizzaioli who know exactly what they are doing.

Their menu proudly states “please refrain from asking for a variation of toppings; our pizzaioli are experienced in the art of combining ingredients”… and my Pizza Napoletana was the evidence.

Each new mouthful tasted different to the last, each made me go ‘wow’, and without wishing to gush too much, each mouthful made me further resolve to tell all my friends about this place.

If pizza isn’t your thing, there are numerous other dishes from Naples to get excited about.

Although the aspirations are high, this is a humble restaurant. The service is smart and friendly, the decor is classy, the atmosphere is intimate, and the prices are astonishingly low given its location.

A great place for a date or a meal with good friends, and it won’t break the bank. If you fancy a coffee pilgrimage at the same time, visit Notes Music and Coffee just down the road. (Open late.)

Check out my review of Sartori – I am hazymat – on Qype


12
Dec 10

Qype: Barbican Foodhall at Barbican Centre in London

LondonShoppingFood & Drink

I love the Barbican Food Hall, despite the fact it’s overpriced, the staff are rushed, and the food is anything but exciting.

With a title like “Food Hall”, with its “Selfridges Food Hall” connotations, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s one of these multi-faceted, multi-tilled affairs with various different cuisine zones and the like.

Seriously, it is not. For example, £3.75 for a very basic but fresh tuna mayo sandwich on reasonably thin normal bread, in an unlabelled packet.

After its refurbishment this year, the place is a lot more sexy to look at, there’s a lot more choice of food, drinks, and cake, and they serve marginally better coffee. (Previously coffee was a serve-yourself affair with an automatic coffee machine, now it’s a barista and a couple of delicious looking espresso machines, they use Monmouth beans. But that doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know how to clean a steam wand and prevent your milk from tasting rancid thus producing stuff that’s even worse than using an automatic… I digress.)

Yes it’s sexier. Much, much sexier. The interior is lovely, and whoever came up with the concept clearly understands the style of architecture in which it is situated (brutalism – not everyone’s cup of tea).

It’s for the above reason that I love it. I’m a self-confessed brutalism-maniac and this place utterly floats my boat.

As for floating my foodie boat, I’m sorry but at its heart, it’s still canteen food.

Check out my review of Barbican Foodhall at Barbican Centre – I am hazymat – on Qype